Peer pressure is something that keeps many parents awake at night, inducing panic-laden insomnia that his hard to shake. However, the truth is more reassuring: parents often have a bigger part to play, and have more influence over their teen, than they might imagine.
Most Peer Pressure is Internal
When parents consider peer pressure, their imagination runs wild, thinking of all the terrible things their child is being coerced into against their better judgment. However, the biggest source of pressure actually comes from the teen themselves. Often, teenagers will feel pressured into doing things they perceive others are doing, when the reality is that their peers are unlikely to be doing very much at all. One way to help your teen understand that not everybody is spending their weekends getting drunk, is to share pertinent statistics with them; this will help them realize that the instances of drug-taking and abusing alcohol are a lot lower than they might have imagined.
Many parents feel they are outranked when it comes to their teen’s friends’ influence, but this is not always the case. Most children are keenly aware of their parents’ viewpoints with regards to risky behavior, and therefore, act in a way that won’t embarrass or disappoint them. It follows that it is important you continue to be the person who provides rules, boundaries and consequences. For example, when your teen is out at night, wait up for them: knowing that your mom or dad is going to be sitting there, ready to ask them awkward questions, may deter unfavorable behavior.
Limit their freedom, and think carefully about repeatedly allowing your teen to stay out overnight; you may think you are just being a flexible, easy-going parent, but the reality is that if you give your teen too much freedom, they might not know how to handle it.
Keep the lines of dialogue open, ensuring that your child knows how you feel about certain subjects, and if they break your trust or do something you’ve told them not to, it is imperative that they receive a punishment. Just like small children, teens expect this; it helps them to understand that all actions have consequences, and may make them reconsider next time.
Talk About Peer Pressure
Some children are naturally predisposed to the effects of peer pressure; they might be unsure of themselves, have low self-esteem, or feel that they need to behave in a certain way to fit in. It is often a good idea to talk to your child about friendships, and how a friend should behave. They need to realize that friendship is a two-way street, with give and take, but a real friend would never make them do something they felt uncomfortable with, or get them to act in a way they didn’t want to.
If you notice that there is a particular friend who seems to have a negative effect on your teen’s behavior, discuss it with them. Don’t apportion blame; instead, see if your child recognizes why their behavior deteriorates, and how they feel about it. If you are seriously concerned, then you are well within your rights to prohibit your child from hanging out with them.
It’s a good idea to role play with your teen about peer pressure; that way, they will not be thrown for a loop when something happens, making them more confident about dealing with a certain situation. Ask them what they would do if a friend wanted to drive after they’d been drinking, or what they would say to someone offering drugs. Provide them with a get out of jail free card by letting them know it is okay to use you as an excuse, saying that you’d go crazy if you found out.
It’s Okay to Make Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes, and teenagers are particularly likely to exercise poor judgment. It’s important they are held accountable for their own decisions, and that they are able to learn from their mistakes; however, your child doesn’t need you yelling about them messing up, or hearing that you’d warned them a million times this would happen. Instead, they need your unconditional love and acceptance. Help them reflect on the situation, and to come up with an understanding of their actions, which will hopefully lead to a better outcome next time.
Although peer pressure is understandably an unsettling issue for parents, if you provide them with the right tools, and guide them through with love, their resilience will see them through.